Medford's unique TV market reaches a critical crossroad

| Print |  Email
Articles - August 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011

 

0811_MedfordTV_02
Above: Although she once vowed that she would never follow her father into broadcasting, Patsy Smullin eventually became her father’s successor as owner-operator of KOBI. To this day she takes phone calls at home from viewers.
Below: Technology is key in staying ahead for KOBI, the flagship station of the sprawling and diversified California Oregon Broadcasting Inc. 
// Photos by Jamie Lusch
0811_MedfordTV_03

By Dan Cook

Patsy Smullin, the owner of Medford-based California Oregon Broadcasting Inc. (COBI), was awakened from slumber by the jangling of her home phone one night in April. Groggily reaching for the offending device, she noticed it was 4 a.m. Still, she answered.

“There’s a fellow on the line who wants to know what the laws are for burning wood,” she recalled. “I said, ‘Do you know what time it is?’ He said, ‘Yes, I just got off work. And your station [KOBI] says we can call any time with a question.’ He had me there. I told him I’d look up the answer and get back to him when I got to the station.”

Smullin’s customer service commitment is somewhat extreme; she has after-hours calls forwarded to her home phone. But it is nonetheless emblematic of the close connections that exist between Medford’s three main network affiliates and the viewers they serve.

Medford is an unlikely hub of broadcast activity. Isolated among mountains just north of the California border, it is far from any of the markets normally associated with media activity. Its rich broadcast history is essentially the product of William Smullin’s restless need to push the broadcast envelope in the earliest days of television. Smullin, Patsy’s father, actually launched his media empire in Eureka, Calif., with a radio station. When he expanded into VHF television broadcasting in 1953, it presaged the move of the base of his operations to Medford.

Today, the dynamic little media market that Smullin jump-started more than 50 years ago finds itself at a critical crossroads. Battered by the recession, the local television stations have been forced to reduce staff and make other concessions to remain viable. One major station — CBS affiliate KTVL — may be up for sale soon. Its Orange County, Calif.-based owner, Freedom Communications, recently emerged from Chapter 11 reorganization and is accepting bids for all of its properties.

The word “consolidation” is on the lips of many who follow the market. Were that to happen in any substantive way, a very special small American television market could be irreparably changed.

 



 

Comments   

 
Mike Gantenbein
-1 #1 Crossroads?Mike Gantenbein 2011-07-27 13:50:21
Great overview of the TV market in Medford - but I'm not sure that the market has arrived at some sort of "crossroads". It is in flux and will continue to be as the internet continues to offer new avenues for content developers (e.g. networks) to distribute their products. However, flux is normal in this market - there were only two TV stations in the market when I first moved here.
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
Guest
0 #2 adminGuest 2013-03-20 03:06:37
This is the direction of Television now..
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

Reader Input: Energy Overload

June 2015
Wednesday, July 15, 2015

We asked readers to weigh in on the fossil fuel-green energy equation.


Read more...

5 questions for ImpactFlow CEO Tyler Foreman

The Latest
Thursday, August 13, 2015
impactflowthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Portland-based startup ImpactFlow recently announced a $5.7 million funding round. CEO and co-founder Tyler Foreman talks about matching businesses with nonprofits, his time at Intel and the changing face of philanthropy.


Read more...

Fueling Up for the Climb

July/August 2015
Friday, July 10, 2015
BY GREGG MORRIS

Rita Hansen aims to scale natural gas vehicle innovation.


Read more...

Light Reading

September 2015
Thursday, August 20, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER

Ask any college student: Textbook prices have skyrocketed out of control. Online education startup Lumen Learning aims to bring them down to earth.


Read more...

The Private 150: From Strength to Strength

July/August 2015
Monday, July 13, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

Revenues in Oregon's private, for profit sector maintained solid growth as the economy continued to rebound.


Read more...

Getting What You Pay For

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY KIM MOORE

A conversation with Chris Maples, president of the Oregon Institute of Technology.


Read more...

Ranking the airlines that fly PDX

The Latest
Friday, August 14, 2015
airlinesthumbBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

17 airlines make stops at Portland International Airport, but not all are created equal when it comes to customer service.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS